First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 4th March, 2014
Next month, it will be twenty-five years since my father died.
My dad, Pete Lush, passed away when he was forty-one years old. His death was sudden and happened on an April Wednesday.
I knew that my dad was young, but it is only as the years creep by and I approach forty, with a young family, that I recognise just how young he was.
My memories of my father range from the vivid to the murky. There are some that my subconscious has probably embellished over the years, adding layers each time a relative tells me a story about him.
And as with everyone who has lost somebody close to them, I worry that the memories will fade, but I grasp on to them and I share them with my daughters. It pains me that they will never know him, but it comforts me when I look at my eldest and see his blue eyes reflected in all her eight year old beauty.
The loss of a parent at a young age is explosive: it sends your world rocking and tilting on its axis, whilst your homework sits unchanging on your bed where you left it. One minute you can be pondering maths, the next you hear a knock at the door that doesn’t belong there on a Wednesday afternoon. And five minutes after that, a titanic hole has been gorged, creating a valley fathoms deep, in a life that, up until that moment, had been relatively smooth ground.
My grandad told me that my father had died, and my mother picked me up in her arms and carried me for the first time in years. That evening she drove me for miles in the car, and that night I slept in her bed. My parents had divorced years before, but the loss for her was no less than for me.
Our parents are a point of anchor. Often, when we become parents, we have to face our own mortality for the first time; we suddenly have tiny beings for whom we have to live. In the midst of this, it is easy to forget how much we still need parenting ourselves: to be looked after, to have unconditional love, to feel safe.
We take our families for granted too often, so I’d like to make it clear to any of mine who happen to be reading this: I love you dearly and unreservedly. Thank you.